Freeing up our time
Our MediTech robot has been an asset for us and we will be able to focus on delivering Pharmacy First and other new services as a result, says Fin McCaul…
As I wrote this article, news had landed about Pharmacy First - and what fantastic news it was for community pharmacy. I believe this is a massive investment from the government in the sector and a real endorsement of the hard work everyone in pharmacy has done over the last few years – as the only health professionals to stay open throughout the Covid pandemic.
Additionally, it is a testament to many pharmacies that have delivered, and continue to deliver, flu and Covid vaccinations and to the hard work and tenacity of everyone with the Save Our Pharmacy campaign.
The news is still not enough to save our core business however. Please don't think I am any better off than the rest of community pharmacy. We still need a significant injection of funding to maintain the core service.
It is, however, a clear indication of the direction of travel and a massive indicator that community pharmacy is a critical element of primary care and must be used effectively.
If you are not aware, the Pharmacy First service is about delivering seven common conditions (sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women), as well as enabling more hypertension screening and relaunching and expanding the pharmacy contraceptive service.
Many of my patients will see this as a positive step forward, as we experience their frustrations first-hand in the lack of access to a GP for solutions in this area. However, as with all change, this is simple to say and more challenging to implement.
There is a lot of information in the announcement but some of the headline information for me is critical: £2,000 available from December to help with training and getting ready for the service; The £1,000 payment per month as a base payment (could be used to support staff resources in training and time).
Services for the seven common conditions are accessible by both professional referrals and patient walk-ins, providing more control, which is very helpful. The news allows us to use wider team members to deliver the hypertension service, allowing more flexibility and additional training for our staff.
There is a lot of planning to be done once more details are released, and I am sure the training will be extensive, but this is a game-changer for our profession and we must adopt the move and adapt how we work to make this a success as soon as we can.
It has been 14 weeks since the robot started as a fully-fledged team member, and I am really pleased with the decision and investment. We have not looked back since the installation, and all of the staff have only good things to say about how it works.
It is a real asset to how we operate and I know that with ‘Ken’ (one of the team has christened the robot Ken), we will be able to focus on Pharmacy First and how we can deliver the new services. Already this is happening with the Covid and flu clinics. Although the initial rush has died down, we are still steady with the vaccinations. On a busy day, we could have 30 walk-ins all handled as business as normal.
One of the MediTech robot’s tangible assets has shone through in the last few weeks. With all the supply issues that have been happening, we are constantly getting different brands of our fastest-moving lines.
Ken takes these variations in its stride, I am relieved to say. Every few days, the system will prompt us to empty one or two fast-moving channels, simply pressing the screen until a box or two are outputted. Automatically, the robot reallocates this to the product we have been dispensing the most recently - AI at its finest.
This means I don't need to think about the different products or pack sizes for the robot – we just need to focus on running the business and looking after our patients, an incredible time saver for both me as the owner and the staff in managing the stock.
Fin McCaul is the owner of Prestwich Pharmacy in Manchester.